Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Escape

Hello, just returned from vacation last Saturday, the 27th. Sorry it took so long to update, I just didn't have the mood to blog lately, just got it back today.

So how was Egypt you ask? One word: AWESOME. I think many would be surprised to know that Egypt has 4 seasons therefore its winter there now and let me tell you, it was COLD! There was one day where it rained (it only rains 3 times a year there), and it was FREEZING on that day. Seriously. So enough about the weather. I was there for about 9 days and it was still not enough to see everything. The country's famous history and civilization never failed to take my breath away. I couldn't believe my eyes when I first saw the Great Pyramids at Giza, the Seventh Wonder of the Ancient World. Those structures were HUGE! Each stone that was used to build the pyramid was really big and they weighed several tonnes. The stones were not even from around Giza, they came from Aswan which is several hours away! Can you imagine how the ancient Egyptians transported those huge blocks of stone in 5000 B.C.? Its beyond imagination, I know. Oh oh and I went INSIDE a pyramid! It was quite an experience since the tunnel was really small and narrow, so you had to duck really low and it was sloping downwards. It was quite a long way down too, several metres I think. And there was only one way to go in and out, so we had to stop halfway several times to allow people to go back out. The inside of the pyramid was just basically a rectangular-ish room which used to house the Pharaoh's sarcophagus and such, but its empty now since it has all been brought to the museum. It was really hot down there by the way. All in all, it was an amazing experience, and quite an exercise too! :)

The Egyptian Museum was also breathtaking. You wouldn't believe the amount of artifacts there are in there! We didn't even get to see all of them since we followed a tour group and the time was quite limited, but I got to see all the highlights; namely the famous King Tutankhamun's treasures (he was buried with over 20kg of gold!), and I even went into the Royal Mummies Hall! I couldn't believe that I actually laid my eyes on the mummies of the famous Queen Hatshepsut (we learned about her in History, remember?) and of course, King Ramses II, probably the most famous Pharaoh of all, the Pharaoh of Nabi Musa A.S. The Pharaoh of Moses! Can you believe it?? He was perfectly preserved too, some of the female mummies even had their hair intact! Truly, truly amazing. I think it would take like, 2 days to fully see and appreciate everything in the museum.

Probably the best part of the whole trip was the Nile Boat Cruise. I had my doubts initially, sorry to say, especially about the cleanliness of the Nile River, since I spent my whole life in a country where clean rivers simply don't exist, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the Nile is CLEAN. Evidence? The water was blue, not the typical teh-tarik colour. There definitely wasn't any rubbish in it, no rubbish on the banks, either. And since its the longest river in the world, it made me wonder, if the Egyptians can take good care of it, why can't we do the same for our rivers? They are extremely proud of their beloved Nile, and rightly so, too. The Boat was so much fun! The room was small, but sweet. The best part was the deck, we would just sit there all day and look at the breathtaking view. There was this ping-pong table to occupy ourselves with, and even a little swimming pool. It was really windy up there and they would serve tea everyday at 4pm. The Boat would stop everyday at several attractions such as Karnak Temple, Hatshepsut Temple and Kom Ombo Temple (where we saw the sunset, which was so beautiful), along the banks of Luxor. We had a guide along the way named Abang Hosny and let me tell you, his knowledge of Ancient Egypt is so vast! He's like a walking Ancient Egyptian Encyclopedia! It was fascinating to hear his explanations about the Pharaohs and Gods and architecture of Ancient Egypt. Its mind-boggling how he can memorize all those stuff. The temples were brilliant too btw, the pillars, columns and obelisks simply amazing. To think that they could build such structures thousands of years ago (which always makes me wonder, where was Malaysia during that time period? My mum said probably a few prehistoric animals existed here, or maybe those Manusia Zaman Paleolitik, hahaha).

Oh yes I almost forgot, the biggest attraction in Egypt after the Pyramids, the Valley of the Kings. The view of the Valley itself was wonderful, the limestone hills and sand dunes looked beautiful. We went into 3 tombs, Ramses the Ninth, Thirteenth and Seventh (I think), and need I say it again? It was awesome of course! Their tombs were huge! And the most amazing part was, all the drawings and hieroglyphics on the walls were still intact, colour and all! As you walk in through the tunnel, you could see to your left and right and also up (yes, they painted the ceiling too, eat your heart out Michelangelo), these intricate drawings and carvings of the Pharaoh's journey in the afterlife. I'll remind you again, the colour was still there, bright as ever, after thousands of years. As you entered the main chamber, you'll see the sarcophagus that used to house the Pharaoh's mummy, and of course, more full-coloured drawings on the wall. My mum, brother and I entered the most famous tomb of all, KV 62, King Tutankhamun's tomb, where his mummy and golden coffin still lies. His burial chamber actually pales in comparison to those of the Ramses', it was quite small and there were not much drawings on the walls. But what made him so famous were the amount of treasure that they found together with his mummy. You see, the earlier tombs were mostly already ransacked by the time the archaelogists found them, mostly by tomb robbers who robbed the tombs of their treasures. But King Tut's tomb was somehow overlooked, therefore he was discovered together with all his treasures still intact. So can you imagine the amount of treasure that the bigger tombs would have contained had they not been robbed? And again, I could not believe it when I laid eyes on King Tut's famous golden coffin, which has now become a symbol of Ancient Egypt. It was quite beautiful actually, very detailed and intricate. And King Tut's mummy! He was really small, since he became King at age 9 or 10, and he was also buried hastily, hence his body wasn't as well preserved as the others. Still amazing, nonetheless.

I also visited the Nubian village, located on one of the several Elephantine Islands around the Nile River. The Nubians are a people closely related to the Sudan people, since they live close to the Sudanese border, they look more African than Egyptian, and even have their own language, food and customs. Their mud houses were so cute, they were painted in nice bright colours, and everyone there was nice and hospitable. We went there by Fellucca, this sort of sailboat which was quite scary actually, haha. It was overall a fun experience, learning about new people and their customs.

Our last day was spent in Cairo (we went back to Cairo from Aswan by sleeping train, which was best gila jugak), learning more about its Islamic history. We visited several mosques, such as Ali Pasha (the first King of modern Egypt) Mosque, Al-Azhar Mosque and Imam Syafie Mosque, where we saw and prayed at his tomb. It was quite a feeling, being there in the presence of your Imam, whose Mazhab and hukums you have been following all your life. We then went to the famous Khan El-Khalili bazaar. It was really big, you can get lost in there! They sold mostly authenthic Egyptian stuff, but sadly I couldn't really enjoy it since I had an upset stomach at the time, hehe. It was on that day when it was freezing cold.

A big part in what made the trip so great was the people too. Since it was my first time following a tour group, I really didn't know what to expect, but I certainly did not expect to get close to most of them! Our Malaysian tour leader, Kak Maria, was so sweet, we shared a cabin in the train and she's really a cool person. Kak Ina and her brother Amir were also nice, so was Nurul from Singapore. And..our Egyptian tour leader over there, Abang Sherif, was also very sweet and we actually owe it to him for bringing us together (ehem, for further reference on this matter, please take a look at my pictures in Facebook and MySpace, hehe). Abang Sherif, as well as our tour guides Abang Hosny and Abang Wahyu took good care of us and made us all feel welcome. Oh and the party on the boat! It was so much fun! The games..and the dancing..hehe I can't believe I actually danced. Hehe. Best gila.

After everything I saw in Egypt, I realized that if an Egyptian should come to Malaysia, I would have no idea where to bring them to. Observe this conversation we had:

My mum: "Sherif, you must be very proud of being Egyptian, your history is amazing."

Abang Sherif: "Yes, of course I am proud!" (smiles proudly)

Me: "Malaysia is nothing compared to Egypt, we only have, what, 600 years of recorded history? You guys go back thousands of years!"

Abang Sherif: "Yes, thousands.." (smiles proudly again)

And Cairo of course has its flaws, but I always believe at looking at the positive side of things. Like I said previously, Malaysia can really learn from the Egyptians how they maintain the cleanliness of the Nile despite it being such a major tourist attraction (you would think it would be filthy right, considering so many cruise boats and felluccas full of tourists pass through it everyday). And all of Egypt's tourist sites are really well taken care of, and the tickets to each place is also uniform, which means they take a lot of pride in giving the best to their tourists. The way Abang Hosny guided us through the tour was also a clear indication on how proud they are of their majestic history and how they work hard to preserve it.

My previous blog post was kinda depressing, I know, and it was posted just before I went to Egypt. But Egypt made me forget about everything I said in my last blog post. I forgot for a while about whatever that was making me sad here in Malaysia, so I guess it was a sign that I truly enjoyed myself. And I truly hope to go back there someday, especially since there's still so many places that I didn't go to, namely Alexandria and Sinai (where the historic Mount Sinai, the place where Nabi Musa A.S. got his first wahyu from Allah, is located). I also sincerely hope that the friendships I have made on this trip would last forever, be it with the people in Egypt or here in Malaysia. To everyone who made the trip possible, thank you so much for giving me the best holiday ever, do take care and keep in touch! :):)

Our Tour Group, at the Great Pyramids of Giza :)

2 comments:

nur hanina said...

ouh Gosh,
when i heard that i'm going,
the first thing that was on my mind;
it's going to be effin hot there!
but i was wrong kan. hee i heard the temp is below 15degrees ]
anyway thanks for your post!
it really did change the way i think about that place;D

Aira Nur Ariana said...

no prob nina dear :) since i went for holiday there, the place was great to me la, but i hope 5 yrs for u there will be great too!